Merrick’s Climate Reads

In The Intersectional Environmentalist, Leah Thomas writes, “The lack of representation of Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian, low-income, LGBTQ+, disabled, and other marginalized voices has led to an ineffective form of mainstream environmentalism that doesn’t truly stand for the liberation of all people and the planet.” As Thomas suggests, a lack of representation in the environmental justice movement proves detrimental to addressing global issues effectively and equitably. Creating a society that supports the environment and all people living in it requires listening to, and acting in recognition of, the narratives of marginalized groups. 

Reading novels and articles published by individuals who belong to marginalized communities is a great way to educate yourself and allow your advocacy to be more comprehensive. Below are five books that I recommend as you learn more about the intersectionality of environmental issues. 


Black Faces, White Spaces by Carolyn Finney

In this study of the lack of interest in nature from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), Carolyn Finney utilizes a variety of sources including film and literature to detail how the environment has been racialized in the United States. Finney details how the history of racial oppression in the United States, specifically the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, has contributed to a society in which BIPOC are discouraged–and sometimes outright barred–from access to nature. In culminating her research, Finney also provides the reader with the work of various Black environmentalists who are building a more equitable and inclusive environmental justice movement. Black Faces, White Spaces demonstrates how systemic oppression creates barriers for marginalized communities in a variety of aspects of daily life, including what many perceive to be something accessible to all: time with nature. 


Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass details the relationship between botany and indigenous traditions. Kimmerer, a member of the Potawatomi Nation, focuses on the means by which Indigenous knowledge of plants can aid Western approaches to science. Braiding Sweetgrass is a refreshing acknowledgement that we are not inherently at odds with nature but can live in a reciprocal relationship with the natural world.


As Long as Grass Grows by Dina Gilio-Whitaker

Dina Gilio-Whitaker provides a detailed history of Indigenous experiences with governments and corporations to offer new means to address environmental injustice. Gilio-Whiataker’s book depicts the Indigenous struggle with treaty violations, finding subsistence, and the protection of sacred land in the face of those willing to destroy the environment for their own benefit. As Long as Grass Grows asserts the importance of looking into the history of injustice against Indigenous communities to create a movement that focuses on both equity and environmental sustainability.


All We Can Save by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson

All We Can Save is an anthology of pieces by 60 women who are committed to uplifting the power of feminist environmentalism. With a mixture of essays, poetry, and art, the style of the anthology acknowledges how gendered bias limits collaboration and creates hardships in the climate movement. Moreover, the pieces highlight those who are fighting for more inclusive perspectives. The pieces show that efforts toward environmental justice can be more powerful and effective with the incorporation of gender minorities.

If you are looking to get involved with efforts related to those discussed in this book, check out this link to the authors’ organization.


The Intersectional Environmentalist by Leah Thomas

Leah Thomas, the activist who coined the term “Intersectional Environmentalism,” writes in The Intersectional Environmentalist about  how BIPOC are disproportionately impacted by environmental injustice and how developing an intersectional lens is critical to progress. She describes the link between racism and environmentalism, arguing that in order to save the planet, an equitable society must exist. A deep dive into privilege, racism, and environmental justice, The Intersectional Environmentalist acts to demand change and motivates us all to critically examine intersectional oppression in a deeper way.

It is important to acknowledge that this is not an exhaustive list of the multitude of narratives often lost in a movement that lacks, and sometimes strategically neglects, the voices of marginalized individuals. Likewise, reading a book is just a single step in contributing to a more equitable environmental justice movement. No matter how thorough the book may be and how much knowledge you may gain from it, continue to educate yourself and act to ensure that the environmental work you do acknowledges intersectional oppression. A great way to begin getting involved is to check out Leah Thomas’ online toolkit at this link!


Merrick Rash, Sustainability Communications Intern at the Zilkha Center